British Coins, Charles I, triple unite, Oxford mint, mm. plumelet on obverse only, 1644, small module, crowned half-length armoured bust l. holding long thin sword and olive branch, gloved hand on top of beaded circle, no scarf, diamond-shaped stops, rev. Declaration in three bands of a wavy scroll, mark of value �III� centred above with three plumes around, date below with OXON underneath, wt. 26.52gms. (S.2729; N.2385 [extremely rare]; Brooker 842, this coin; Sch.304; B-J dies VIII/L8), about extremely fine, on a fully round uncracked flan, portrait of the king and much of reverse sharply detailed but softly struck in areas, as illustrated, because struck from rocker dies, no serious abrasions, pleasing gold colour
*ex J. Nunn, 27 November 1896, lot 434, �12-8-0
ex O�Hagan, 16 December 1907, lot 154, �5-5-0
ex J. Dudman, 15 December 1913, lot 111, �8-12-6
ex J. Bliss, Sotheby�s, 22 March 1916, lot 347, �9
ex J. G. Brooker, SCBI, 33:842
ex Spink Numismatic Circular, February 1983, 177
ex Glendinings, 15 October 1985
ex St. James�s Auction 20, 18 November 2011, lot 55
In our modern collectors� world, obsessed with quality, it is easy to forget that for many coins �MS63� or whatever numerical grade might apply is not especially relevant to the pursuit of quality historical coinages. In the case of emergency issues or siege coins, mere survival is something of a miracle. Such coins were typically born of momentary good fortune in the face of impending doom, and survivors somehow escaped the punishments of the ages that followed their creation. Certainly this is true of the massive Triple Unites of King Charles I, each valued contemporaneously at three pounds sterling and struck in soft gold. Literally speaking, a mere handful of those created at the temporary Oxford Mint during the Civil War have survived the ages.
Perplexing difficulties compromised Charles�s traditional divine right, ranging from his marriage to the Catholic princess Henrietta Maria of France to revolts in Ireland and Scotland, but most serious of all were his seemingly endless clashes with Parliament. Early in his reign he enjoyed a strong popularity with his subjects at large and with his aristocratic court, but this began to fail during the Thirty Years War, when his alliances suggested that he sided with Catholic ecclesiastics. As time went on, needing funds he reintroduced, against the wishes of Parliament, long-obsolete feudal taxes including the widely hated Ship Tax. Through his first quarter century as monarch, an unusual number of internal political/religious battles lessened his popularity while external war threatened his kingdom.
At last, members of the �Long Parliament� seized power in January 1642, forcing Charles to march north. He reached Nottingham by late August, then went on to Oxford, where he set up court in October and began to make ready for war. Lacking income from taxes, he had a dire need for support from local loyalists. On 26 October, the Civil War commenced at the Battle of Edgehill. In the college town of Oxford, the king found friendly souls; they must surely have been most welcome sights for the beleaguered monarch. His supporters saw first and foremost, beyond the instant need to protect the king�s person, that his cause would quickly fail without financing of his army. Lacking such aid, Charles would be captured and dethroned, and quite possibly killed. Loyalists rallied, and the king�s mint at Oxford continued to issue money in his name until sometime in May 1646. All during this time, coinage was solely the king�s prerogative, traditionally his right and his alone in the kingdom, and the history abounds with stories of college plate and other local riches being converted to money bearing the king�s name, perhaps most famous of all being his massive Triple Unites in gold, which were the ultimate pledges of his monetary power and by far the largest repositories of wealth in coinage form. Most of this money coined at Oxford saw use for procuring supplies, arms, rents and other necessities, not least of which was loyalty. The smaller denominations from Oxford and other local, temporary mints paid soldiers and bought goods for the cause.
At one of the war�s early skirmishes, at Wellington, the king had urged support when he made what has come down through history to be called the Wellington Declaration. He vowed to uphold, even enforce, the Protestant religion, the laws of England, and the liberty of parliament�thereby seeking to dissuade any and all opponents that he was pro-Catholic, or a monarch who might disavow laws for his convenience. His vow became his war slogan and it appears as the central reverse inscription on this and other triple unites. Most of the war�s famous battles and sieges - at Naseby, Newark and Oxford - ended by the spring of 1646 but negotiations for peace failed and open hostilities began again in the summer of 1648, led by a Scots invasion. The Civil War ran intermittently from the autumn of 1642 until Charles was beheaded on 30 January 1649. Never before had an English king been brought to trial as a monarch, accused of treason, and executed.
Although they outlived him, most of the coins made at Charles�s rudely established mints disappeared long ago. At their best, even when new, most bore witness to the anguish of the king as they were sometimes poorly engraved, unevenly struck, and blemished at issue. None of this money was likely to be saved for posterity. Some was intentionally defaced and melted by the king�s enemies. By the time the Civil War ended, the concept of monarchy had changed forever. Even the king�s centuries-old sole right to issue money had vanished. The Triple Unite we see in this lot was one of the last of its kind made at the king�s mint at Oxford - in fact, the last of the truly royal money. It remains as mute testimony to some of the nation�s most troubled times. Within five years of its creation, the kingship it proclaims had ended. The Latin legend which appears above and below the Declaration, on the reverse of this coin, expressed more hope than reality. Exurgat Deus Dissipentur Inimici translates to mean �Let God Arise, Let His Enemies Be Scattered�, but the royal assertion failed. Divine right was gone. The king was dead. The age-old monarchy died off with him. And yet, today�s collectors may still hold the king�s hopes in their hands, here in this golden emblem of its age.